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This article discusses about the developing paradigms of data for sensor-actuator networks that perform engineering tasks. We provide a new foundation for data fusion based on two concepts: a conceptual framework and the goal-seeking paradigm. The conceptual framework emphasizes the dominant structures in the system. The goal-seeking paradigm is a mechanism for representing system evolution that explicitly manages uncertainty. The goal-seeking formulation for data fusion helps to distinguish between subjective decisions that can be executed by computers. These notions are useful for critical tasks, such as security management in large-scale distributed systems. Investigations in this area, and further refinement of the goal-seeking formulation for instrumentation and measurement applications, are likely to future systems that facilitate holistic user decision making.